SBB’s discussion of Traders Cove, and it’s larger meaning. As published (approximately) in the Asbury Park Press May 30.
– Also, see SBB‘s Letter to DEP.
– Read about Traders Cove FROM THE DEVELOPER’S POINT OF VIEW.
906-B Grand Central Avenue
Lavallette, NJ 08735
Traders Cove in Brick Township – acre for acre one of the most fought over pieces of real estate on the New Jersey shore – is again under threat of intensive development. Paramount Homes proposes to build 62 luxury condominium units, a restaurant and an upgraded marina on what is now a “rundown” boatyard of slightly more than ten acres.
That a developer should seek to maximize his profits by building densely is no surprise; what is disturbing, however, is the demeanor of the various levels of government relating to this proposal. Their failings are symptomatic of the larger forces that continue to bring intensive building to the coastal zone in an era when the public is pining for less.
Especially disturbing is the gap between rhetoric and reality on the part of the leadership of Brick Township, who have strongly favored the development of Traders Cove:
– They extol the increased ratables that a development would provide, while ignoring the demonstrated fact that the ratables chase has for decades served more as a motor than as a brake on taxes.
– They disparage the “rundown” look of the boatyard, as they simultaneously refrain from code enforcement.
– They assert that the site is polluted; but would the developer have purchased an interest in the property – rather than remaining a contract purchaser – if he had not first ascertained that such is not the case? Reports by the state of New Jersey have affirmed that the site does not have a major pollution problem.
– And they claim they have no money for a purchase; yet they recently authorized over five million dollars to purchase the site of a proposed Home Depot. This authorization is laudable, but it belies the township’s assertion that money cannot be found.
In June of 2002 Brick Township, at the urging of Save Barnegat Bay and others, rezoned all fifty-three miles of Brick Township’s waterfront so as to prevent the type of intense condominium/marina development now proposed. They did this with sound justification, since the township’s Master Plan has long called for “open space and recreation” at Traders Cove and other waterfront sites.
Less than a year after changing the zoning, however, in May of this year – in the first application out of the box – the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance to Paramount Homes, Traders Cove’s would-be developer.
Defenders of the system will say that zoning boards grant variances independently from the governing bodies that set their ordinances. Save Barnegat Bay respectfully disagrees. We doubt that there is a township in Ocean County whose land use boards do not hold a finger to the wind that blows from the direction of the reigning political establishment. And if such a township does exist, it is certainly not Brick.
The problems posed by the Traders Cove proposal are not confined to the township level. State Senator Andy Ciesla, who seldom appears in print on editorial pages, and who is an executive at a company that sells building supplies and thereby stands to gain from increased development, took the trouble to pen an article endorsing the Traders Cove proposal.
Given all the issues facing our state, and given the fact that the Senator’s constituents overwhelmingly desire less development, it is troubling that one of his few op-ed contributions in memory should be a paean to increased development. In almost twenty years of involvement in coastal issues, I cannot recall another situation in which a state senator issued a written public endorsement of a private project under review by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
In short, the Traders Cove situation smacks of the systemic problem that most plagues the battle against imprudent development in our state: money gets what money wants, while the people get what they are handed.
Notwithstanding all these failures of government, the situation at Traders Cove could still be redeemed. Two levels of government in particular could vindicate the health of the environment and the will of the people.
First, the DEP could deny the CAFRA (Coastal Area Facility Review Act) application for this site. Sound reasons for a denial abound. The property is adjacent to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal is excessively dense. Nearby waters open to shellfishing merit protection. Barnegat Bay has been designated a “Category One” waterbody, a classification that Governor McGreevey loudly pledged to protect at a ceremony within sight of Traders Cove.
Section 10 of the CAFRA statute grants DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell, who has been a good friend to environmentalists, broad discretion in denying CAFRA applications that he deems inconsistent with the requirements of a healthy environment. Persons wishing to help protect the coast can write Commissioner Campbell, NJDEP, PO Box 402, Trenton, NJ 08625-0402 and politely remind him of this fact.
A second governmental entity that could be of service in favorably resolving the Traders Cove predicament is the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, who could purchase Traders Cove as a park. There are numerous waterfront sites throughout the Ocean County that visionary leaders could purchase to prevent the public from becoming walled off from the water by luxury homes – which is a very real threat. Recently Ocean County made such a purchase at High Bar Harbor near Barnegat Light.
Other worthy examples of waterfront tracts in need of acquisition are Anchor Reef Marina at the foot of the Mathis Bridge in Dover Township and the end of Tuscarora Avenue in Waretown. Financing is not a problem. For a single county road-building project, the widening of a two mile section of Brick Boulevard, Ocean County found thirteen million dollars.
The environment at Traders Cove and throughout the New Jersey shore is not beyond salvation. But it will require farsighted leaders who are more attuned to people and nature than to power and money.
William deCamp Jr. is president of Save Barnegat Bay, whose Internet address is www.savebarnegatbay.org.
See Plot Plan of Traders Cove proposal.
Read about Traders Cove From the Developer’s Point of View”.